A round-up of the latest research and development projects, tools and techniques for the modern construction professional

DTI tries to cut waste

The DTI is to analyse about 40 products to find out whether building materials can be used more efficiently.

The research, which is known as Be Aware (Built Environment Action on Waste Awareness and Resource Efficiency) will last for 30 months. It is being carried out by an industry consortium led by the Construction Products Association, and involves manufacturers with expertise in plastics, concrete, composites, wood and modular buildings. It intends to show that using this approach could bring industry savings of up to 25%. Findings including guidance and case studies will be published in May 2007.


Recycling toolkit

The Waste and Resources Action Programme has launched a new online tool, called the RC toolkit, to help construction professionals to increase the recycled content of materials. The aim is to persuade specifiers to opt for greener materials, and the attraction is that they do not incur any extra cost. At the moment the RC toolkit works for about 500 specifications in new build. WRAP intends to extend the product database progressively.



BRE extends BREEAM

BRE's Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) already rates the performance of buildings such as offices, hospital and prisons; now it can be used for schools as well. BREEAM Schools will form the basis of an independent certification scheme against which the Department for Education and Skills will set targets for new-build and refurbishments.

It replaces the Schools Environmental Assessment Method published by DfES as a self-assessment tool in 1995.

Some of the areas examined by BREEAM Schools include the management of sustainability, the environmental impact of the materials used on the project and the ecological value of the site.

Meanwhile, the Welsh Local Government Association representing local authorities in Wales has commissioned a study from BRE Wales and the Welsh School of Architecture to issue a sustainability guidance toolkit for planners. The document, which is due to be published in May, is meant to help planners appraise projects and formulate planning decisions with sustainability in mind.


Housing best practice

The Energy Saving Trust has published energy efficiency standards for its Best Practice in Housing Programme. The standards have been updated in response to higher energy performance standards that will be contained in the new Part L of the Building Regulations, which is scheduled to come in force this April. The Energy Saving Trust's Energy Efficiency standards set three different levels of energy performance, bronze, silver and gold, which correspond to a 10%, 25% and 60% improvement in energy performance over the new Part L.